Sunday 22 April 2018

Sean Penn: El Chapo visit was intended to highlight US war on drugs

Sean Penn said the Mexican government was
Sean Penn said the Mexican government was "clearly very humiliated"

Sean Penn has said his article on Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman failed in its mission.

Speaking to the 60 Minutes TV show, the actor said his intention in tracking down the escaped drug kingpin and writing about him for Rolling Stone magazine was to shed new light on the US government's policy in the war on drugs.

But public attention has instead focused on how Penn found and met Guzman in October when Mexican officials could not track him down. Guzman was recaptured last week after six months on the run.

Penn said the Mexican government was "clearly very humiliated".

He said he had hoped his article would begin a conversation about drug policy.

"Let me be clear. My article has failed," Penn said.

Penn met Guzman for seven hours in a mountain hideout last October while he was still evading Mexican officials.

The actor and director has been drawn into a controversy over whether he may have assisted in the recapture effort or, conversely, may have prolonged the search by keeping silent until the article was published last week.

Penn insisted he played no role in Guzman's eventual recapture: "We had met with him many weeks earlier. On October 2, in a place nowhere near where he was captured."

Guzman's reason for agreeing to meet the Hollywood star was first explained as resulting from his interest in having a movie made about him. Then it seemed his interest was in a face-to-face encounter not with Penn, but with the contact who was bringing them together: Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, with whom Guzman openly flirted in recently published text messages.

For his part, Penn said he had only one true mission: Guzman was someone through whom "I could begin a conversation about the policy of the war on drugs. That was my simple idea".

The Rolling Stone article set off a bombshell, including criticism over the magazine's willingness to give Guzman approval of the article before it was published.

There was also suspicion about Penn's qualifications as a Hollywood star, not an established journalist, to report such a big story.

"When you get the story that every journalist in the world wanted, there's a lot of green-eyed monsters," said Penn, who believes Guzman gave him access because he is not a professional journalist.

But he told 60 Minutes he has "a terrible regret".

"I have a regret that the entire discussion about this article ignores its purpose, which was to try to contribute to this discussion about the policy in the war on drugs," Penn said.

"Let's go to the big picture of what we all want: We all want this drug problem to stop," he said, but added that the market for illicit drugs includes many Americans. "There is a complicity there."

He said about 1% of the discussion that resulted from the article has been focused on the larger issues, and added: "Let me be clear. My article failed."

Press Association

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